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Public holidays in the United Kingdom are the public holidays observed in some or all of the countries of the United Kingdom. Most businesses and non-essential services are closed on public holidays, although an increasing number of retail businesses (especially the larger ones) do open on some of the public holidays.
Like Denmark, the United Kingdom has no national day holiday marked and/or celebrated. The lack of a formal founding date and no constitution may be the reason for the lack of a national day.
Although there is no statutory right for workers to take paid leave on public holidays, where paid leave is given (either because the business is closed or for other reasons), the public holiday can count towards the minimum statutory holiday entitlement. Likewise, if you are required to work on a public holiday, there is no statutory right to an enhanced pay rate nor to a day off in lieu (alternative day off), although many employers do give either or both. Any rights in this respect depend on the person's contract of employment. The statutory minimum holidays are currently 5.6 weeks a year (including any bank holidays or public holidays that are taken).
In Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, public holidays are commonly referred to as bank holidays, and the two terms are often used interchangeably, although strictly and legally there is a difference. A government website describes the difference as follows:
Bank holidays are holidays when banks and many other businesses are closed for the day. Public holidays are holidays which have been observed through custom and practice.
Bank holidays may be declared in two ways:
The distinction between public and bank holidays is discussed in more detail in the article on Bank holidays.
In the rest of this article, the term "public holiday" is used to include all types of public holidays mentioned above.
When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday is normally postponed to the next following working weekday, which is then referred to as a 'substitute public holiday' or the date on which the public holiday is "observed". This is normally the next following Monday, but if that day is itself already a public holiday or a substitute public holiday, then it may be the following Tuesday. Most commonly this happens when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, in which case the following Monday will be a substitute public holiday for Christmas Day, and the Tuesday will be a substitute holiday for Boxing Day; whereas if Christmas Day falls on a Friday, then it will be observed on the Friday, but Boxing Day (falling on the Saturday) will be observed on the following Monday. In this way, public holidays are not 'lost' on years when they coincide with weekends (which will already be a day off for many people). (Note that, unlike the USA, where public holidays falling on a Saturday are sometimes observed on the preceding Friday, British public holidays are always moved forwards, not backwards.)
Increasingly, there are calls for public holidays on the patron saints' days in England, Scotland and Wales (Northern Ireland already has St Patrick's Day as a holiday). An online petition sent to the Prime Minister received 11,000 signatures for a public holiday in Wales on St. David's Day; the Scottish Parliament has passed a bill creating a public holiday on St. Andrew's Day although it must be taken in lieu of another public holiday; campaigners in England are calling for a bank holiday on St. George's Day; and in Cornwall, there are calls for a public holiday on St. Piran's Day.
|1 January||New Year's Day||from 1974, by Royal proclamation annually|
|17 March||St. Patrick's Day||Northern Ireland only (this was not an officially recognised public holiday in Northern Ireland until the peace process was signed and from thereon was recognised)|
|variable||Good Friday||Traditional Common law holiday|
|Easter Monday||Statutory bank holiday, defined by name.|
|First Monday in May||May Day Bank Holiday||from 1978, by Royal proclamation annually|
|Last Monday in May||Spring Bank Holiday||Statutory bank holiday from 1971, following a trial period from 1965 to 1970. Replaced Whit Monday, which was formerly a public holiday whose date varied according to the date of Easter. The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs.|
|12 July||Battle of the Boyne (Orangeman's Day)||Northern Ireland only|
|Last Monday in August||Late Summer Bank Holiday||Statutory bank holiday from 1971, following a trial period from 1965 to 1970. Replaced the first Monday in August (formerly commonly known as "August Bank Holiday". The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs.|
|25 December||Christmas Day||Traditional Common law holiday|
|26 December (see Notes)||Boxing Day||Statutory bank holiday. Legislation does not name the holiday, but states that it falls on "26th December, if it be not a Sunday."|
|27 December||not named||Statutory bank holiday only in a year in which 25th December is either on a Saturday or Sunday. This has the effect of adding an extra holiday when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday.|
|28 December||not named||Statutory bank holiday only in a year in which 26th December is either on a Saturday or Sunday. This has the effect of adding an extra holiday when Boxing Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday.|
|Total||8 (England & Wales)|
10 (Northern Ireland)
Most bank holidays are not recognised in Scotland, as public holidays are generally determined by local authorities across Scotland. Some of these may be taken in lieu of statutory holidays while others may be additional holidays, although many companies, including Royal Mail, do not follow all the holidays listed below, and many swap between English and local holidays.
Since Easter 1996 the Scottish clearing banks have harmonised the days on which they are closed with those in England and Wales and are therefore closed on Easter Monday and the last Monday in August (rather than the first). This has resulted in a number of local authorities creating a public holiday on Easter Monday. Previously Easter Monday had not been a public holiday in Scotland.
There have been many protests about banks opening on 2 January since this decision was taken. This has resulted in many banks now providing only a limited service on 2 January, with most members of staff still entitled to the holiday
|Date||Name||Major Towns/Cities (not an exhaustive list)|
|1 January||New Year's Day||all|
|1st Monday in February||Winter Holiday||Inverness|
|1st Monday in March||Inverness|
|Last Monday in March||Lochaber|
|Easter holiday (variable)||Good Friday||Ayr, Dumfries and Galloway, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Inverclyde, Kilmarnock, Paisley, Stirling, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire|
|Easter Monday||Ayr, Edinburgh, Falkirk, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Kilmarnock, North Lanarkshire, Paisley, Stirling, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire|
|1st Monday in April||Spring Holiday||Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Dundee, Fife, Scottish Borders, Inverness, Perth,|
|2nd Monday in April||Angus, expect Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Elgin|
|3rd Monday in April, or preceding week if would otherwise coincide with Easter Monday||Edinburgh|
|Monday in April; date varies from year to year||Aberdeen|
|Last Monday in April||Inverclyde|
|1st Monday in May||Labour Day or Early May Bank Holiday||all|
|Tuesday after 1st Monday in May||Victoria Day (*)/Spring Holiday||Clydebank, Stirling|
|Last Monday strictly before 24 May||Edinburgh*|
|4th Monday in May||Perth*|
|Last Monday in May||Ayr, Dundee*, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Paisley*, South Lanarkshire|
|1st Monday in June||Galashiels, Inverclyde, Fife|
|Tuesday after 2nd Thursday in June||Linlithgow Marches||Linlithgow|
|Second Thursday in June||Lanimer Day||Lanark area only|
|Last Monday in June||Fair Holiday||Elgin|
|Saturday preceding 1st Monday in July||Edinburgh|
|1st Monday in July||Falkirk, Inverness|
|1st Friday in July||Braw Lads Gathering||Galashiels|
|2nd Monday in July||Fair Holiday||Aberdeen|
|3rd Monday in July||Arbroath, Fife, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire except Lanark|
|4th Friday in July||Scottish Borders|
|Last Monday in July||Dundee|
|1st Monday in August||Paisley|
|1st Monday in September||Late Summer Holiday||Elgin, Inverclyde|
|2nd Monday in September||Battle of Stirling Bridge||Falkirk, Perth, Stirling|
|3rd Friday in September||Ayr Gold Cup||Ayr, Kilmarnock|
|Monday after 3rd Friday in September||Ayr, Kilmarnock|
|3rd Monday in September||Autumn Holiday||Edinburgh|
|Last Monday in September||Aberdeen, Angus except Carnoustie and Monifieth area, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Paisley, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire|
|1st Monday in October||Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Dundee, Inverness, Perth|
|2nd Monday in October||Scottish Borders|
|3rd Monday in October||Elgin, Fife|
|1st Monday in November||Samhain holiday||Inverness|
|30 November||St. Andrew's Day To be taken in lieu|
of one of the other statutory holidays at discretion of individual companies/authorities.
|an official holiday in Angus, Fife, Scottish Borders|
|25 December||Christmas Day||All|
|26 December||Boxing Day||All|
Official bank holidays are:
|1 January||New Year's Day|
|2 January||New Year Holiday|
|1st Monday in May||May Day|
|Last Monday in May||Spring Holiday|
|1st Monday in August||Summer Holiday|
|30 November||St. Andrew's Day|
|25 December||Christmas Day|
|26 December||Boxing Day|
Note: In 2012, there was a special holiday on Tuesday, 5 June, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Most areas did not have Monday 4 June as a holiday.